Why I love the stories

I’ve been remiss in reflecting on my profession and work lately. Partly this is because I’ve been working … a lot … and haven’t found the time. Now that the semester is slowing down I’m more interested in just having some fun. But thinking about the release of the Desolation of Smauggggg (fun!) got me mulling over the role of the story in my life and how freaking powerful stories have been. So, in the spirit of seasonal reflection, here is why I love the stories.


First, a little background. On September 10, 2001 I received news that completely changed the trajectory of my life. I don’t need or want to share it, but was honestly devastating. I felt like my life had ended and I wasn’t sure where the future was headed. The next morning I woke up to one of the most tragic but also surreal events in my young life. Two months later I moved away from a place that had become my home to start a new life. One of the first things I did was to go see The Fellowship of the Ring. It is difficult to express exactly how much I think that movie saved me. I know it is meant to stir emotions through score and dialogue (film critic, blah blah blah), but, you know what? It worked. It made me feel like no matter what I was going through or the country was experiencing or how crazymaking our President was, everything would be OK. No matter how much crap there is in the world, there is always still hope.

In January 2002 I moved to Croatia and had a wonderful time. After nine months though I became extremely sick with pneumonia. I spent my last month in the country trying to heal, and during that time I re-read the Lord of the Rings. Again the story kept me from feeling like a big ball of despair.

As you can imagine, I’ve been looking forward to The Hobbit for a long, long time.

Granted “fantasy” is not for everyone, but genre isn’t the point. The point is how powerful,  meaningful, and healing those stories are for me. They are like personal touchstones. I only need to think about them and I know the world can be right and good (if only in my head).

I don’t think it needs to be a particular type of literature or even fiction versus nonfiction. Some of my favorite nonfiction writers, like Tony Horwitz, are able to engage the reader by telling a powerful story. I also don’t think it has to be about books all the time. I personally could not get into the Harry Potter books because of Rowling’s writing style, but I love the movies. They are truly almost (dare I say it) magical. They transport you. They make you feel OK again.

So, I am excited about vacation and having time to engage with the stories I find emotionally resonant. I am also excited about the movie coming out. I know it isn’t the  original narrative, but I don’t care. It will still be wonderful. It will still be my story.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and lots of time with your stories.

love of reading meme…because I have a life again…

We are on the downhill portion of the semester and I’m starting to have more free hours at work and less stress in general. Admittedly I’ve had little time for reflection and even less time for writing. So, to replace a lack of words, I read. And in honor of reading, here is a love of reading meme, round 2.

What have you just read?
The Vegan Lunch Box around the World by Jennifer McCann. This is a fun little cookbook vegan style. It is geared to the Bento Box craze (which was new to me), but I like it because the cookbook is built around little menus from different countries. So, you can choose to do the Japanese themed bento box with several little courses. Granted this is not authentic stuff, but the menus are well designed and the recipes are pretty tasty, even for vegan food 😉
And yes, I read cookbooks. I admit it.

What are you reading now?
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. I’ve owned this one a while and admittedly could never get into it. It isn’t a great book, but I wanted to read it before hitting Year of the Flood, which is a companion work to Oryx and Crake and supposedly The Awesome. The New York Times Book Review compared this new one to The Blind Assassin, one of my faves. Here’s hoping it is that good because Oryx and Crake is mighty bleh.

For the Friends of the Library book club I’m reading The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton. It is a beautifully written and designed book on the influence architecture and the environment can have on our well being. I can’t wait to see how the professor, Patrick Lucas, handles the FOL discussion group because unlike typical book club reads it isn’t heavy on plot and characters. There was mention of a group activity! More to come on that most likely.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)
My partner has some of them organized but I have no clue what scheme he used. I have the classics on one bookshelf, the contempo lit on another, and nonfiction elsewhere. That is about as organized as I’ve ever been with books. And yes I am a librarian.

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?
As mentioned, The Year of the Flood by Atwood. Here is the review if you are interested. I also recently bought The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt. This tome is a bit daunting, but I liked Possession and I figured I’d give it a go. I’ll probably dig myself out from under sometime next year because I’m a slooowwww reader.

What book would you like to read soon?
I’m really stuck on that one. I’d like to give Netherland by Joseph O’Neill a go finally. I’ve had it sitting on my desk forever. My friend and I are talking about starting a nonfiction reading group (of two) soon. I think we may read Blue Latitudes by Tony Horwitz. Any suggestions of great, awesome, wonderful books you are reading?

For the Love of Reading meme: Just for fun and to celebrate a well deserved day off…

Today is my first full day off this semester (Labor Day doesn’t count because I prepped class ALL day). I do need to clean house (the partner is turning 30 and the parental units are showing up), but most of the day will be spent reading. So, what better way to celebrate reading on rainy days off than a reading meme. Love it.

What have you just read?
Last book I finished was The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright about Al-Qaeda and the build up to 9/11. Excellent book by the way.

What are you reading now?
For our Friends of the Library book club, I’m reading The Innocent Man by John Grisham. I would’ve never picked this up on my own and I’m a bit surprised it was on the list, but hey that’s why you join a book club, right?!
Also, I’m finishing up When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman. And when I say finishing up, I mean I’m hitting the 300 page mark in the 600 pager. Great book, just little long.

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?
The next book club book is Stoner by John Williams. I also want to read Blue Latitudes by Tony Horwitz because he is the funniest thing ever. I’m trying to read The Librarian Instruction Cookbook. … Trying.

What’s the worst thing you were ever forced to read?
Anything with the word competencies or guidelines in the title. Also some of my grad school Political Science literature was so horribly written that I wanted to rip my eyes out.

What’s one book you always recommend to just about anyone?
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. Seriously, you should read it. I have a copy. You can borrow it.

Admit it, sadly the librarians at your library know you on a first name basis, don’t they?
Um. Well, sadly, yes. Because I’m a librarian. Do you have a problem with that?

Is there a book you absolutely love, but for some reason, people never think it sounds interesting, or maybe they read it and don’t like it at all?
The Evolution of Cooperation by Robert Axelrod

Do you read books while you eat?
Books and magazines. I’m hard core like that.

While you bathe?
Well, not that hard core.

While you listen to music?
Hells no.

When you were little did other children tease you about your reading habits?
No. I was big enough that I could beat them up.

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down?
Strangely enough, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Not a perfect book, but the section on the Korean airline was riveting. And I’m not being sarcastic.

Have any books made you cry?
Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey. Threw it across the room a couple of times too. Read it. Great book. I have a copy. You can borrow it.